An exciting new study found that mealworms can easily biodegrade almost any type of plastic from the ocean.
The research came from Stanford University in CA, USA, and Beihang University, China. The two recent studies came together and both team of researchers have successfully proved that mealworms effectively biodegrade many types of plastic. How is that possible? well, the bacteria living inside their gut have the ability to break down plastic into tiny little pieces of biodegraded fragments.
In addition, researchers found that worms who had feed off plastic regularly appeared to be very healthy, just as healthy as those who did not. But wait, that is not all. Researchers also found that the waste mealworms produce, which closely resembles that of rabbits (but obviously smaller), could be used in agriculture.
Craig Criddle, proffesor at Stanford University, declared for a news release that some of the greatest discoveries come from the most unexpecte places, that once again, science surprised everyone. The environmental engineering professor say that the news will come as a shock to many scientists.
Further study is needed in order for mankind to put the worms munching the world’s ever-growing quantity of plastic waste. But the future looks bright. The two research papers published today only focused on two plastic substances: polystyrene and styrofoam. Both of these substances are widely used in electronics, packaging and various other appliances.
Further studies will test if mealworms can biodegrade textile materials such as polypropylene. Researchers will also investigate whether the worms can do that with bioplastics, and most importantly, microbeads.
A recent study showed that 8 billion microbeads are released daily in the United States waters alone. So, if the mealworm could biodegrade microbeads then that would help reducing pollution in the United States to a great degree.
Scientists say that most plastic materials take way too much to biodegrade. For instance, a bottle of water would take between 400 and 500 years to break down completely. Because of this property, plastic is swallowed by a lot of marine birds and fish.
Recently, a study found that more than 25% of the oceanic fish from the market swallowed microbeads. Another research released earlier this month estimated that by 2050, 90% of the world’s oceanic birds would swallow fragments of plastic.
The United States is one of the world’s leaders when it comes to plastic pollution. Due to the poor management, most plastic waste ends up in the oceans or in the rivers.
Photo credits: Pixabay